In the past I added Recent Reads to Part One but it has become uncomfortably long.
Part Six, this part, will now contain my most recent reads
in chronological order BACKWARDS
ending with the book I finished most recently.
Titles in RED are those which I found compelling.
Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. History/Non-Fiction. I don’t know what it is about me and stories about the sea. This is one of many books I have read about famous ships or expeditions which have unexpectedly run into trouble and have sunk with considerable loss of life. I remain fascinated that so many men, from such an early recorded date, wanted to go to sea. They knew how difficult it would be and how risky but they went anyway. I like to hear the stories in the lingo of the sailors and captains and storytellers. I continue to be appalled at the things they ate, including things that had grown moldy or contained maggots. I have read other books by Erik Larson which I have liked. He did not disappoint as a writer when he wrote this true story.
Blood, Sweat and Tears by Winston Churchill. History and Memoir. This volume contains many of his best speeches written and given from 1938 through 1940. They all pertain to the British fight against the Axis powers, primarily Germany in the early years of World War II. Mr. Churchill is on my short list of people I admire. I am willing to overlook every quirk and oddity he manifested in order to benefit from his wisdom and quick mind. This is one of many books by or about Mr. Churchill and was worth the time I spent to read it.
Memoirs of the Second World War: An Abridgement of the Six volumes of The Second World War by Winston Churchill. History and Memoir. This was a big and fat book. I can’t imagine reading the full six volumes considering how long it took me to read the abridgement. That said, I loved this book and learned from it. I have always enjoyed Mr. Churchills’ style and wit. Even though I have read much about the Second World War, I loved every word of this book and learned many new things.
The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin. History, Non-Fiction. A sad and poignant truthful tale of life on the American prairie during the early days of this country. It was both a story of immigrants who homesteaded land and faced hardships and of the horror of weather at a time when it could not be predicted and people were unprepared. It reminded me what a small variation in temperature can do to the human body and especially to little children. It was a sad story but a look into the lives of our ancestors as they moved west.
The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk. Reference. Couldn’t find a single word that I miss using today. I am kind of a nut when it comes to books like this and admit that I did find it very interesting. Tom and I talk quite a bit about how our language has been dumbed-down and diluted by the use of technology which forces us to use fewer words and smaller words at that. Nothing avoids serious words like texting. Texting peels everything from the word choice list and leaves a person with small and unexpressive words. It was a fascinating book.
A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. History. This amazing book tells a story that was heartbreaking and difficult to read. It represents one more small piece of the puzzle that was the behavior of Nazi Germany in World War II which displayed the bankruptcy of the Reich’s souls and the unbelievable courage of those of were members of the French Resistance. The book is specifically about 270 women of all ages, their husbands and children and their ultimate demise at the hands of the Germans. Of the 270 who are featured and documented in this particular tale, only 70 survived the war and none were undamaged physically and emotionally. I was especially touched by the information given at the end, which must have required years of research. It listed each of the 270 women, what happened to them, how and why they were arrested, what became of their children and husbands and the role that each played in resistance activities. Most had been denounced by French citizens who thought it was safer to collaborate with the Germans than to resist them. I was forced to consider what I would have done in their places. I have never lived in a city or country occupied by evil and brutal forces and perhaps I might have had the courage some of these women showed but I am afraid that my fear of endangering my children would have held me back. I cannot say. I was in awe of the chances they took and the things they did to make life difficult for the occupiers. It is amazing that any of the women survived. Most of their husbands were also killed by the Germans and some in very brutal ways.
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina. Animals Studies. This was a substantial book as far as number of pages and an enlightening book to read. I have read many books about the intelligence of animals and this one fortified my belief that they are very bright and that if we could only talk with them, we would be astounded. Mr. Safina loves elephants. I especially loved his personal experiences with them. I also loved his anecdotes about monkeys and dogs. Melissa’s dog Bernie is beyond smart. When Tom had recent surgery to remove cancer from his lip and chin, we were all reminded about Bernie. Even though his stitches were out, and there was no bandage on his face and his mustache and beard covered most of the healing wound, Bernie went to it immediately and sniffed around. She didn’t touch it but she knew that something was amiss or, maybe she knew that what was amiss (the open skin cancer) was gone and she couldn’t smell it anymore. Millie had a small accident and lost the toenail to her little toe. Bernie ran to her and knew what had happened immediately. She began to lick the injury and wouldn’t be discouraged from keeping it up. Millie actually let her. Melissa said the toe healed in two days. So. There are so many things we don’t know about animals and the measures of their creation. I have been trying to talk to the doves on the deck when I leave their food, but they won’t sit still to talk to me. The little gold finches are more friendly. I loved this book.
The Best Kept Secret: The Story of the Atomic Bomb by John Purcell. History. Two printings of this book. 1947 and 1962. Much more was understood about the bomb in the second revision. Fascinating history and explanations of scientific things for the smarter people among us. Tom is reading it now. He gets the scientific things. After he finishes the book he will send it to George, who, at 12, is very interested in physics. He recently participated in a workshop with a well-known physicist who offered to tutor qualified young people. George lives in Houston. He will likely be very interested in this story from the 1940s. Tom’s uncle Francis Christiansen was involved in selecting mining sites throughout the country for the procurement of the needed materials for making the bombs. He was a professor at Princeton University at the time.
The Sketchbook by Washington Irving. Fiction. Delightful book. In this context, the title means “sketches of various towns in England) which Washington made as he traveled. This compilation also contained Rip Van Winkle, which is always a tread to read. I thrifted an old volume with heavy pages and a wonderful cover.
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism and Treachery by Steve Sheinkin. Young adult history and non-fiction. I already knew about Benedict Arnold. His threads are all through any book one reads about the American Revolution. This was a condensation of facts, written for the young adult reader. I thought it would be an easy read and that it would refresh my mind. It was and it did. It reminded the reader that people can have two sides . . . just like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Arnold was both a patriotic person and later a traitor. Excellent review of parts and players in the Revolution.
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. Science and Self-Help. HAVE READ IT AND CONTINUE TO REVIEW IT. AN EXCELLENT BOOK ABOUT TRAINING YOUR MIND AND MEMORY. I have tried a few of the tricks he talked about and plan to read it again.
The Terror by Dan Simmons. Historical Fiction sort-of.
I could not put this book down for 682 pages of 788. I read while I was watching basketball games and until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I already knew quite a bit about Sir John Franklin and Captain Crozier and their ships named the Erebus and the Terror. I have read many exploration novels and historical accounts and I was just fine with everything for most of the book. It was well written and full of suspense. I didn’t mind that the author was taking liberties with the truth here and there because I understood that he was using the 1840s sailing adventure as a vehicle to consider strange things that were happening to the ships and crews as they spent two years locked in the ice. I knew that many people had looked for the Northwest Passage and thought that this was the plan for this book. THEN, just after page 682, the author lost his mind. I think he realized that he had to wrap it up and so for 100 pages he almost wrote a new story which belonged in the Fantasy section. He solved everyone’s problems by killing them off or having the monster Sasquatch kill them off unless they were rescued by the beautiful Indian girl who does not have a tongue but is a friend of the monster. The Indian maiden saves Captain Crozier’s life, after he has been shot 7 times, makes a sledge from what is handy in and around her snow cave, chews his food for him until he is well and makes clothes from skins she has found somewhere. She is little and he is big but she harnesses herself to the sledge and pulls him around until he is well. They fall in love, he finds out she is a magical shaman, he gives up his tongue to be like her and they live happily ever after. Oh, they have two children, a boy and a girl. You can tell that I am more than miffed at what the author did because I was very impressed with his historical handling of the facts in story form until almost the end. It is not the first time that an author has done this but I am always disappointed when he or she does. I do not recommend the book for the reasons I have stated.
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. Fiction. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. I love the writings of Ms. Welty. This particular novel is only 180 pages but they are incredible pages. I have read this book more than once and will likely read it again. It is the story of a woman who returns to the southern home of her childhood to visit her father who has need to undergo surgery on his eyes. Her father has recently married a young woman who is younger than his daughter, who is telling the story. Her father dies while convalescing. It might be complicated enough to lose something of the weight of the story by trying to explain it so I will say that it was wonderful, thought-provoking and thoroughly “southern”.
The Sanitorium by Sarah Pearse. Fiction, Murder Mystery.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Fiction. Autism.
The Pioneers by David McCullough. History.
Awakenings by Doctor Oliver Sacks. Non-Fiction.
Migraine by Doctor Oliver Sacks. Non-Fiction.
Hallucinations by Doctor Oliver Sacks. Non-Fiction
Musicophilia by Doctor Oliver Sacks. Non-Fiction.
Bonhoeffher: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Erik Metaxas. Biography.
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark. History.
The Constants of Nature: The Numbers that Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe by John D. Barrow. Science/Physics/Mathmatics.
Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand by James Barron. History/Music.
Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg. Biography.
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Historical Fiction
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sully by Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III. Biography of Event.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan. Fiction.
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. Historical Fiction. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.